Year 2016 will mark another milestone in the development of the Internet of Things.
After the maturing of the first lot of relevant concepts (1987-1998) and the development of more focused reference models for the Internet of Things (1999-2007), new waves of research and technological innovation have spurred its recent growth and rapid implementation in almost all corners of our economies and societies. First, there has been significant progress on IoT architectural reference models (2008-2012). Second, since 2013, the concept of “Internet of Things” has been extended to its ultimate destination of an “Internet of Everything” consisting in bringing together People, Process, Data and Things through combined machine-to-machine (M2M), person-to-machine (P2M), and person-to-person (P2P) connections. Third, more recently, the deployment of IoT applications has been facilitated by the intensifying use of large-scale local and global test-bed and pilots.
Over the last 10 years, the Internet of Things has gradually moved out of the lab experiment mode to boldly abandon the idea of stovepipes or silos and instead focus on challenge-based solutions of cross-sectorial nature to enable the diffusion of pervasive connectivity and interoperability between platforms. This shift underpins a shared vision of the Internet of Things as a new paradigm and ontology that seek to improve lives and deliver business value leading to global economic growth and development of businesses. In 2016, however, this vision will begin to be challenged by the growing sentiment among the world population that the combination of the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data raises unprecedented challenges, on the one hand of an ethical nature to humans (how to collectively re-define what it means to be human and to be ‘in the world’ and how to use this for embedding an ‘Idea of Man’ in IoT-related system design?) and, on the other hand, of a political nature to democracy (how to manage effectively the irrepressible shift from the current centralised governance within and among nation-states to the new, emerging decentralised governance based on semi-autonomous real-time decision-making by individuals or communities themselves?).
In other words, the year 2016 will see the opening of a long sequence of negotiations, at local, regional, national and inter-continental level, to explore the requirements and options to draw all the consequences of the deep entrenchment of the Internet of Things in the very social fabric of our organisations, institutions and communities.